I’m spending far too much time in this apartment. However, if I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have seen the first evidence of human life I’ve seen in a few days. I was sitting out on the veranda on an old pachinko stool I’d found when I first got here reading a book by Murakami Haruki. There was a movement out of the corner of my eye and I saw a figure emerge from the house that stands opposite me. I was about to call out, but stopped when I noticed he was dragging someone. I’d seen both of them before and knew that that was his elderly mother. I snuck backwards into my apartment and watched from behind the curtain. The mother wasn’t moving and I assume she had been another victim of the heart attack type death that has been spreading around the country.
I watched her as he left the body on the ground and started to make a fire in a barrel. I could see he was crying as he put paper kindling and some broken chairs in. Now, I’m just going to give a disclaimer here because this is something that I couldn’t believe and vomiting on my tatami mats was how I myself reacted.
The man picked up his mother in both arms, cradled her for a while without looking at her face and then gently placed her feet first into the barrel. The flames caught her clothes, and licked at her body. The smell of burnt flesh and hair erupted into the air. I watched in disbelief. I wanted to scream or shout something to him, but as the smell reached my nostrils, all that came out was fish, rice and a little bit of broccoli.
We both watched the cremation in utter silence. I was so mesmerised by the flames that I didn’t even notice when he walked away.
It was a quiet day after that. I suppose I had a lot to think about. My mind just took a break and I just sat on the couch looking blankly at the wall, eating a packet of dried squid.
I had been waiting so long to see another person, and now I’d finally seen one. It wasn’t really the circumstance I was hoping for though. It’s not that I don’t understand why he’d need to cremate his mother himself, and I seriously felt for the guy. It was just pretty shocking to see. On one hand, I wanted to run over there and introduce myself; on the other hand I was suddenly quite nervous about re-establishing contact with people. The world has become a crazy place, and being isolated down in Hirogawa, I’d say I probably don’t have any idea about how crazy it’s become.
Does anyone have any ideas? Should I say hi to him? Is it worth the risk? Maybe he has food or information… Then again, maybe he doesn’t have food and is desperate enough to do anything…